I made a list of a few of the men whom I knew, and who I believed were still in town, but when I sat down to write to them I felt curiously reluctant to commit myself to staying at Feltham. Even if I were not to interfere, even if I were to stand aside while the game was being played, I could not believe that the scheming of Louis and the acquiescence of Felicia went for the same thing, and I had an uncomfortable but a very persistent conviction to the effect that she was being deceived. Everything from her point of view seemed reasonable enough. What she had told me, even, seemed almost to preclude the fear of any wrong-doing. Yet I could not escape from the conviction of it. Some way or other there was trouble brewing, either between Delora and Louis, or Delora and the arbiters of right and wrong. In the end I wrote to no one. I determined to go down alone, to shoot zealously from early in the morning till late at night, but to have no house-party at Feltham,—to invite a few of the neighbors, and to be free myself to depart for London any time, at a moment’s notice. It would come! somehow or other I felt sure of it. I should receive a summons from her, and I must be prepared at any moment to come to her aid.
I went into the club after I had left Claridge’s, and stayed playing bridge till unusually late. It was early in the morning when I reached the Milan, and the hotel had that dimly lit, somewhat sepulchral appearance which seems to possess a large building at that hour in the morning. As I stood for a moment inside the main doors, four men stepped out of the lift on my right, carrying a long wooden chest. They slunk away into the shadows on tiptoe. I watched them curiously.
“What is that?” I asked the reception clerk who was on duty.
He shrugged his shoulders.
“It was a man who died here the day before yesterday,” he whispered in my ear.
“Died here?” I repeated. “Why are they taking his coffin down at such an hour?”
“It is always done,” the man assured me. “In hotels such as this, where all is life and gayety, our clients do not care to be reminded of such an ugly thing as death. Half the people on that floor would have left if they had known that the dead body of a man has been lying there. We keep these things very secret. The coffin has been taken to the undertaker’s. The funeral will be from there.”
“Who is the man?” I asked. “Had he been ill long?”
The clerk shook his head.
“He was a Frenchman,” he said; “Bartot was his name. He had an apoplectic stroke in the cafe one day last week, and since then complications set in.”
I turned away with a little shiver. It was not pleasant to reflect upon—this man’s death!
AN UNSATISFACTORY INTERVIEW
Before I was up the next morning I was informed that Fritz was waiting outside the door of my room. I had him shown in, and he stood respectfully by my bedside.